Make sure you use a pickling cucumber that is firm. Clean cucumber, cut off blossom end. The blossom end can cause your pickles to become soft and dark if left on.
Soak cukes in an ice water bath for about 4 hours, adding ice as needed. This will help keep the pickles crunchy.
Sterilize 14 to 16 pin jars or 7 to 8 quart jars.
Cut cucumbers into slices or spears if desired.
In a large stock pot, combine the vinegar, water and salt. Bring brine to a rapid boil.
Meanwhile, place garlic, hot pepper and dill to taste (I use 1 or 2 large cloves garlic per jar, 1 pepper and 2 heads of dill) and 2 small grape leaves (the grape leaves are optional but if you have them available – don’t leave them out – they will keep your pickles crunchy!). Also, when I can not find fresh I use about 1/4 tsp dried dill per pint jar. Add 1/8 tsp of Pickle Crisp Granules per pint jar. This also helps keep the pickles crisp and crunchy.
Fill jars with the cucumbers and then add brine (it should be boiling as you add it). Using a spatula, remove air bubbles, clean the rim of the jars and seal.
TO PROCESS OR NOT PROCESS:
These pickles can be processed in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, which makes them shelf stable for around a year. The downside is that the hot water processing will cook the cucumbers a bit and can sometimes give the pickles a softer texture. If super-crunchy pickles are your aim, skip the processing step and just keep the jars in the fridge, they will keep refrigerated for several weeks.
Store jars in a dark space for 6 to 8 weeks before opening. The longer you can wait to open the pickles, the better tasting they will be. Sometimes they get opened much quicker and they still taste wonderful!